You May Stop Black Money But Can You Stop Corruption? – Views From Prabhakar

The demonetization move was the right one to make in spite of all the public indignation and unjustified political lobbying against the current government. In any case, the opposition and politicians, in general, lack the credibility to criticise the demonetization move, only because the entire nation knows that they are the most corrupt. As my friend said ‘ He who agitates the loudest has the most to hide. Or the most to lose’. But isn’t corruption after all a malaise and just a symptom of a much larger evil in a society which is corruption?

So the more pertinent question is whether demonetization is only a temporary measure against the symptom of black money, that will do nothing to cure the main disease, which is corruption. In medicine, that is called a recurring symptom, which means it could come back, versus a chronic symptom that might never go away.

Poor countries lose US$1 trillion a year to corruption. It’s time for justice 

How will we know we are less corrupt? In the 2015 study by Transparency International India ( transparencyinternational.org ) which perhaps is the most reliable source of data on corruption around the world, ranked 76th amongst 167 countries. If our 2016 or 2017 scores are any better it might mean that rooting out black money and stricter vigilance from the Income Tax and other departments has resulted in a less corrupt country.

 

‘Based on expert opinion, the Corruption Perceptions Index measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide. Dark red indicates a highly corrupt public sector. Lighter red and orange countries fare a bit better, but corruption among public institutions and employees is still common. Yellow countries are perceived as cleaner, but not perfect’ according to Transparency International.

While Transparency International speaks about public sector corruption, I can from own personal experience recall the history of corruption in the country since the 60s. Corruption first started in the public sector and government servants at the lowest level. The traffic policeman who would accept a small bribe to let you go for having broken a traffic light. The Customs official who would meticulously check your bags while returning from overseas, to tell you that you had exceeded the value of goods allowed into the country. But corruption quickly scaled up to the highest levels of the government.

And while corruption started out in the public sector, 70 years of corruption made it endemic and infectious quickly moving on to the private sector. This is shocking because the private sector is well paid. One of the defences for the petty policeman taking a bribe has always been that his wages were so low that he was forced into corruption for his livelihood. Something that can’t be a defence for example, for the builders in the country who are anything but poor

A History of Corruption

 

Corruption has been a part of human societies since the oldest of times. Corruption, fraud, embezzlement, theft, bribes, and kickbacks are all forms in which people try to increase their income at the cost of others. Beginning in the latter half of the 1990s an increased recognition of these costs led to many international and non-governmental organisations demanding that political and business leaders demonstrate high standards of honesty, ethics, and social responsibility. This in turn led to a concerted fight against corruption, money laundering, and black markets around the world as well as to the recognition of the importance of governance.

Although many disagree, corruption is frequently defined as the misuse of public power for personal gains. Corruption, unlike fraud and embezzlement, refers to decisions that politicians and public bureaucrats make based on authority delegated to them by the populace. When these decisions are motivated by personal gains rather than by the public’s interest, other than politicians favoring segments of the population they represent, this is considered corruption. One of the difficulties of identifying corruption is that these self-serving decisions can often be disguised as good public policy.

How to control Corruption?

 

Can black money re-generate itself? Of course it can. Once the new notes have replaced the old notes in system, corruption will create a new bank of black money. Removing the symptom does not cure the disease. If the general populace continues to be corrupt, it will not take much time for black money to re-generate itself to current proportions. While estimates may vary, its only a matter of time. So what measures could be taken to stop corruption? Here are some ideas. I am sure there are more.

Blacklist corrupt businessmen: Private businesses caught indulging in corrupt practices or bribing officials should be blacklisted permanently especially from government projects.

Remove discretionary powers of ministers and bureaucrats: This would reduce scope for misuse of such powers to favour some parties.

Pay Government officers market indexed salaries : This would remove the need for a bribe.

Stricter scrutiny of government orders and tenders : This often has the largest scope for corruption to take place.

Genuine autonomy for public sectors : I was able to observe companies like Air-India from close quarters during the 90s. The huge amount of interest ministers showed in the working of public sectors like Air-India was shocking. From determining where they could advertise to swinging contracts.

Bring back funds stashed away abroad : The general public still feels that there has been no action taken either by the previous government or the then opposition about the Indian names that were offered by foreign government on funds parked abroad. The estimate of black money stashed in tax havens overseas is $ 181 billion. Ensure that severe punishment is meted out to those who cheated the system.

Bring stronger laws for the punishment of corruption : There is a feeling that people can get away without punishment for corruption. The law needs to be harsh. There will have to be a fear induced about corruption. Currently, people walk without an ounce of fear.

As Karl Kraus, The Austrian writer, journalist and satirist said, “Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of the individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country.” Demonetization is a good step but lets attempt to cure the disease after removing the symptom temporarily. Then the symptom won’t re-appear.

 

(Image Courtesy: The Budapest Beacon)

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About the Author:

Prabhakar Mundkur is an ad veteran with over 35 years of experience in Advertising and Marketing. He works as an independent consultant and is also Chief Mentor with Percept H. All previous posts of Prabhakar can be found here.

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